Thursday, June 10, 2004

An Aggie's Dozen

Time for the 'lebendieth' installment of the Possum's Posers.

Good thing I had extry (sic) (I know you are, but what am I?) time to think.

1) Assuming for the moment that "The South" still has a distinct and recognizable sense of itself within the greater universe of American culture (not having been homogenized and starched into being nothing more than merely another place on the map), when was the first time you ever felt or noticed that difference or distinction?

I remember the first time I laid eyes on Fort Worth. I arrived in mid August. Looking out the truck window at all the BRICK houses and the DRIED, YELLOW grass, I remember how alien it felt. In Vancouver, Washington, most houses had wood siding and the grass was green all year 'round - without having to be watered much at all. Watching people WAVE at each other when they merged in traffic (using their WHOLE HAND!) And seeing the "Foat Wuth, Ah luv you" bumper stickers! And the men in light blue suits with cowboy hats and boots on! People here still laugh when I say that one of the things I like about Texas is that it has all four seasons. Granted, the winters are mild and the summers are not, but you can tell when you've moved from winter to spring and from summer to fall.

But "The South" is more than geography, it's a feeling you get that you fit in your own skin, and that everybody fits in as a part of the whole. I think that's why in the South, there's no such thing as a 'stranger', there's only folks you haven't met before.

The first Sunday I was here, the family I was staying with had already made lunch plans that they couldn't add me to, so they arranged for another family from church to have me over after church for Sunday dinner. I never once felt like I was an outsider even though these folks had seen me for the first time that morning. My first experience with brisket and the ritualistic watching of the Cowboys. And I came to realize, this experience wasn't a fluke. Most folks I met treated me the exact same warm, welcoming way. (as opposed to screaming in horror and running away like all those villagers used to)

2) Assuming our original assumption is still valid, list three of distinctions about the South that you believe are positive, and worth being emulated by others.

Honor. The sense of honor still runs strong in the South. The idea that you do the right thing just because it's the right thing, no matter what people say or how much it hurts.

Family. The South has roots and family is important. I know lots of places that this is true, but the Southern family is different. The family in the South is more than just the folks that happen to be born into it, it's the outliers and hanger's-on that get swept up into the family and are accepted as such even though there is no blood that ties them to it. Sometimes it's a neighbor kid, or a single gal or guy from church, or a friend from school who doesn't have a good home to go to and spends more time at your house than his own. Or maybe it's a dorky college boy who just needs to rent a room 'cause the dorms are full.

Food. Barbecue, catfish, hush puppies, grits, corn bread, chili, biscuits, cream gravy (with or without sausage), ribs, brisket, pork chops smothered in creamed corn, mashed potatoes, home made ice cream, watermelon, ranch style beans, andoille sausage, boudin, etouffe, crawfish, peanuts, pecans, salsa, tortillas, tacos, enchiladas, kolaches (lots of Czechs in Texas), ham hocks and beans, bacon strips in homemade baked beans, peaches, chicken fried steak, ...

You can find these things in other places, but there's no place that does them quite like the South.

3) Have you ever been to another place outside of the South that seemed to have that same sense of "Southernness" to it? If so, where was it?

Can't say that I have. Like the saying goes, "I may not have been born here, but I got here as fast as I could."

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